The Maori Christmas is really a traditional Kiwi celebration, with many enjoying the Christian festival while adding Maori customs such as a hangi.

Hastings man Henry Heke said his family have been getting up early and having a cooked Christmas breakfast for years.

"Me and my wife get up nice and early, set the table up and put some presents under the tree so when my 6-year-old and 2-year-old get up we can tell them the presents have come from Santa.

"We usually cook sausages, hash browns and the girls really like scrambled eggs as well."


He said this year his wife and two daughters will be joined by their son who is home for the holidays after a year of study.

"Once the kids have played with their toys and we've had a good feed we go around all the family and the grandparents.

"One of us usually dresses up as Santa Claus. One year when I was a kid my uncle dressed as Santa and he was climbing in through the window; one of the neighbours thought he was robbing the house and called the cops, so that is a funny Christmas story that we like to share."

He said his family just try to visit as many relatives as possible on the holiday.

"We go around all the whanau and someone might be doing a pig on the spit and we have a few brewskies and nibbles."

Although a traditional Christian Christmas has an influence on a Maori Christmas, the Kiwi-style festival usually involves a hangi, with a traditional roast dinner cooked in a pit under the ground a with large groups of whanau and friends.

"Traditionally we had a late hangi or a roast but people don't tend to do that any more. The best memory I have of the hangi though was the reheat or refry the next morning, that was always really good."

Many prefer to enjoy the typical Kiwi "barbie" at home, the park or the beach for a casual cook-up and to eat out of doors, often with fresh seafood.

Several families also sing carols in Maori and New Zealand has some of its own Christmas songs, including traditional tunes, sung in Maori, such as Marie te Po (Silent Night) and A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree.